Next Stop Hollywood: Why Flopping is Ruining the NBA

Evan PettyCorrespondent IJune 16, 2008

Ever since basketball became a sport it has been labeled as "non contact".  For years, while the game evolved this term was kept in perspective.  Basketball was a sport that did not promote a physical thrashing such as American Football, but the so called, "non contact," was not taken entirely literally either. 

During the '60s, fans loved to watch the grinding, playing style of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.  This style carried over to the '70s and '80s where occasional hard fouls were part of the game, and slightly rough play was accepted. 

This was the kind of game NBA fans wanted to see: called closely enough that the game was kept in order, but also called loosely enough to let the best basketball players on the planet play. 

No one wanted to see their team's star go to the bench with foul trouble. Twenty years ago that only happened if they actually deserved it by playing the game to an aggression that overstepped the rules of the game. 

But today, that's not the case, with the flopping and complaining in today's game we have seen basketball being called closer and closer.  It seems inevitable that eventually the game will fulfill its title of being so called "non contact".

Imagine you are a referee in the NBA for a moment.  You have the responsibility of watching the biggest, fastest, and best athletes in the world play basketball.  All the while, you are expected to make the right call 100 percent of the time.

You have to judge whether the ball left his hand before the buzzer sounded or whether it was hanging like a thread on the follow through.  You have to decide which seven footer's hand last touched the ball before it went out of bounds when they were skying for a rebound 12 feet above the floor. 

Face it, calling an NBA game flawlessly is as impossible as anything can be.  Now you have players adding a new twist to your job.  You now have to tell whether a player is rammed into by a 270 pound man or falls on the floor a moment before impact. 

This folks, is the newest trend in 21st century basketball: flopping.  I have a big problem with flopping, not only is it frustrating for the players and fans, it is also a completely disrespectful act towards NBA officials. 

I love the NBA.  I still remember my first game in the Boston Garden, and the first time I watched an NBA Finals' series.  I love basketball as a sport too, but flopping is the single biggest problem I find with the NBA today. 

When I turn on an NBA game, I, as well as the majority of fans, watch to see some of the biggest stars in the game.  I don't believe there is anything more frustrating then when a star has to sit on the bench with two fouls in the first quarter. 

What makes it even worse is when the star is forced to sit out because another player flops to make it look as if he was fouled.  For a league that makes its success by "selling their stars" I just can not begin to think how the NBA stands for this. 

The way the games are called and the way players flop every possession, there is a damn good chance that players are going to get in foul trouble and have to sit out.  Now who wants to watch that?  Honestly, who? 

People argue that it's "part of the game" and other points along those lines, but in the end isn't it about the fans?  Isn't the NBA just any other business that is trying to make money?  Fans pay good money to see games and they are deprived of that right to see their favorite players play basketball because other players pretend. 

And while the fans hate it, how about the players?  If you don't look at the NBA as a business and more as a league of just the players competing, then how do you think Dwight Howard feels.  What do you think when Howard, a 265-pound specimen, has to sit out in a big game because someone smaller than him makes it seem as if they were fouled. 

These big men are the continuous victims of smaller players flopping because to the naked eye, it is impossible to see whether there was actually contact.  All officials see is a seven foot, 270 lbs. athlete move towards another player while the opposing player is sent flying through the air. 

Now could Shaq make a twig like Pau Gasol slam to the ground? Yes, of course.  But that is exactly why it is so difficult for these officials to make the proper call; which is downright unfair. 

While flopping is clearly not fun or fair for both the fans or players, let's empathize for the officials calling the game.  NBA officials are under the microscope every minute of every game.  They have to control the strongest and fastest athletes in the world so that they can play a civil game of basketball, and yet they get no credit for anything. 

These NBA referees should be cherished.  However, they are currently being disrespected like I've never seen before.  Quite frankly, I feel it is a disgrace to the NBA.  What people need to understand is that to make a decision on a flop is so incredibly difficult.  It is beyond belief to think that a referee can consistently differentiate between a flop and a foul. 

And don't think these crafty players don't know that.  They know perfectly well, and they decide to do it anyway; deceive a hardworking individual.  An individual that is vital to the continuation of the sport they play, their job. 

This is not just fun and games for these athletes, it's their JOB.  And, although I'm making this very literal, in raw terms, this is basically a businessman making his coworker's job brutal.   A tactic employed just so he can have a slightly better or more successful time at work. 

In essence, the players work for the NBA, and the officials work for the NBA.   Because neither the players nor the officials would be anything without the organization of the NBA.  This makes the players and officials coworkers.  They both work together to form a game that fans want to watch. 

This brings in money to the NBA, which in turn, gives money to players and officials, although maybe not completely directly.  So while for now, the players have a "right" to deceive and cheat the officials, their coworkers, why should they? 

It's complete disrespect and an embarrassment to the players in the NBA that they would treat hardworking referees this way.  And as much as it is the player's faults for creating this real disheartening situation, the only way it is going to end is if the "boss" intervenes. 

I was ecstatic to hear that the NBA was going to fine players for flopping next season.  I think it is a great start to fixing this problem, but it is still a work in progress.  I also question the definitiveness necessary to make a "flop" call, and how much they will look to penalize.  Along with that problem I also worry about the degree of punishment. 

I doubt that a fine will stop a player from doing what has made him an effective player in the NBA along with the millions of dollars collected.  This is why I would love to see the NBA implement a minimum one game suspension for flopping. Possibly an even longer suspension depending on the severity of the flop (based upon timing of game and consequence of call). 

This would be a much better deterrent to use to stop flopping in the NBA.  And I don't think the NBA should be picky about these flops.  If suspensions are handed down, they just need to pick out obvious flops to avoid much controversy. 

That's the luxury of instant replay, you can clearly tell the obvious flops.  This is what I would like the see the NBA do.  It would take a little short term criticism, but the long term benefit would prove to be enormous.